Spanish universities offer refuge to Ukrainian academics

by Lorraine Williamson
Spanish universities -

MADRID – Spanish universities Rey Juan Carlos, Complutense, Carlos III, in Alcalá (all four in the Madrid region), as well as the University of Seville, are considering ways in which scholars who have fled the war can work on Spanish campuses.  

In just ten days, the war in Ukraine has triggered an avalanche of refugees. According to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, 1.2 million people have had to flee their country following attacks by Russian President Vladimir Putin. As a result, European Union interior ministers last week unanimously approved an ‘exceptional measure’ called temporary protection. This offers ‘displaced persons from non-EU countries and those who cannot return to their country of origin immediate and temporary protection’. Full details are explained on the official website of the European Commission. The plan includes a residence permit for the duration of the protection (from one to three years). Furthermore, it also includes access to employment, housing, social security, medical treatment, and education for minors, among other rights.  

A step further 

But Spain, and in particular the Spanish university world, wants to go a step further. And is subsequently exploring the possibilities of offering work to Ukrainian refugees from the university world. For example, the rector of the Rey Juan Carlos University (URJC), issued a statement saying that ‘a procedure is being initiated’ so that the university’s departments can ‘invite lecturers from Ukrainian universities to do research for an initial period of three months’. The URJC will start ‘with a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 10’ professors.  

The Complutense University Madrid (UCM) has made a similar proposal. Both the teaching staff and the management team have proposed a period for research. This could be in the form of a visit or some kind of scholarship for the Ukrainians, reported a lecturer from the faculty of geography and history.   

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The University of Alcalá also wants to host guest professors. They give lectures and can thus qualify for a period of more than one year. Carlos III University is also considering taking in refugee Ukrainian professors, as it has done before with Afghans. Exactly how this will take place is still unknown and will be determined per person and position. It could, for example, be doctors or doctoral students. Finally, sources at the University of Seville also confirm that ‘they are working out the possibilities’.  

Own initiatives 

Many professors have already made proposals of their own accord, such as the UCM professor mentioned earlier. And as Jesús García Laborda, dean of the faculty of Alcalá, who wrote a letter to his rector also addressing the universities of the Balearic Islands, Salamanca, Castilla-La Mancha, and Valencia with the idea of ‘accommodating professors with dignity’.  Such an idea ‘could be handed over to the Conference of Rectors (CRUE) he said. And, if subsequently adopted, could involve ten professors per university, which would amount to over 1,000 professors’.   

Support from the Ministry of Universities  

International projects with Ukraine are already underway. The Minister for Universities, Joan Subirats, at a meeting with the Rector of the University of Granada, Pilar Aranda, said he wanted to ‘give attention to people who have had to leave Ukraine and want to come to Spain to study or practise their profession, by giving them refugee status and the necessary support’. 

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